Ivan Michurin

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Michurin, Ivan Vladimirovich

 

Born Oct. 15 (27), 1855, on the estate of Vershina, near the village of Dolgoe, present-day Michurovka, Pronsk Raion, Riazan Oblast; died June 7, 1935, in Michurinsk, Tambov Oblast. Soviet biologist, founder in the USSR of scientific selection of fruits, berries, and other crops. Honorary Member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1935); academician of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences (1935).

Michurin was the son of a small landowner. In 1875 he rented a parcel of land, consisting of approximately 500 sq m, in Kozlov, where he began collecting plants and developing new varieties of fruits and berries. In 1899 he acquired a new parcel of land (about 13 hectares) on the outskirts of the city, where he transferred his plants and lived and worked until his death.

Only under Soviet rule was Michurin’s work appreciated and developed. “The Civil War had barely ended,” wrote Michurin, “when none other than Vladimir Il’ich Lenin, of luminous memory, turned his attention to my works” (Soch., vol. 1, 1948, p. 610). As early as 1920, Lenin instructed the people’s commisar of agriculture, S. P. Sereda, to organize the study of Michurin’s scientific works and practical achievements. At the request of Lenin, M. I. Kalinin, the chairman of the All-Union Central Executive Committee, met with Michurin on Sept. 11, 1922. On Nov. 20, 1923, the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR acknowledged the importance of Michurin’s experimental nursery. In 1928 the nursery was expanded into the Genetic Selection Center for Fruit and Berry Crops; in 1934 it was reorganized into the I. V. Michurin Central Genetic Laboratory.

Michurin greatly contributed to the development of genetics, particularly that of fruit and berry crops. In the laboratory of cytogenetics that he organized, cell structure was studied and experiments were conducted on artificial polyploidy. Michurin studied heredity in connection with the laws of ontogeny and external conditions, and he proposed the theory of dominance. He proved that dominance is a historical concept that depends on the heredity, ontogeny, and phylogeny of initial forms; the individual characteristics of hybrids; and the conditions of cultivation and growth. In his works he substantiated that the genotype may be changed by external conditions.

Michurin was one of the founders of the scientific selection of agricultural crops. The most important problems elaborated by him were intervarietal and distant hybridization, methods of raising hybrids in accordance with the laws of ontogeny, control of dominance, the mentor method of grafting, the evaluation and selection of seedlings, and the acceleration of the selection process by means of physical and chemical factors. Michurin worked out a theory of the selection of initial forms for cross-breeding. He established that “the farther apart the pairs of crossbred plants are from each other in terms of their native habitats and environmental conditions, the more readily do their hybrid seedlings adapt to environmental conditions in a new location” (ibid., p. 502).

The crossbreeding of geographically distant forms subsequently was widely used by many other breeders. Michurin worked out the theoretical bases and some practical aspects of distant hybridization. He proposed methods of overcoming the genetic barrier of incompatibility with distant hybridization; these methods include pollination of young hybrids during their first flowering, preliminary vegetative inarching, the use of an intermediary, and pollination with a mixture of pollens.

The following Michurin varieties have been regionalized in the USSR: Pepin Safrannyi, Slavianka, Bessemianka Michurin, and Bell’fler-Kitaika apples; Bere Zimniaia Michurin pears; Nadezhda Krupskaia and Plodorodnaia Michurin cherries; and Chernoplodnaia mountain ash. Michurin introduced the cultivation of grapes, apricots, sweet cherries, and other southern crops to northern regions. He was awarded an Order of Lenin and an Order of the Red Banner of Labor.

WORKS

Soch., 2nd ed., vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1948.
Itogi shestidesiatiletnikh robot. Moscow, 1950.

REFERENCES

Vavilov, N. I. “Pamiati Michurina.” In the collection 7. V. Michurin v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov. Tambov, 1963.
Nesterov, la. S. “I. V. Michurin—osnovopolozhnik nauchnoi selektsii plodovykh i iagodnykh kul’tur.” In Dostizheniia otechestvennoi selektsii. Moscow, 1967.

IA. S. NESTEROV

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